Monday, January 30, 2012

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

This was very likely the first poem I ever memorized...and that's because I have a special connection to it.

At the age of 13, I ran a trapline in west-central Illinois, which I checked three days during the week and both days of the weekend. On Saturday morning, my father would drive me out to the creek bridge on Possum Hill Road and drop me off, about 3 miles from home. I'd then worked upstream, running trap sets already made, and always tried to get in at least 5 or 6 new sets. About three-quarters of a mile from the bridge, a smaller creek and valley turned back toward town. The first half mile of that creek, I commonly had four or five good, and often productive, sets for mink and raccoon. By the time I made it home in late afternoon, I'd cover close to four miles.

One Saturday, the temperature was just barely above freezing and the heavy cloud cover could not decide whether to rain or snow. As I headed back to town after runnng my last mink set, the precipitation turned to a cold, cold hard rain. I was close to an old abandoned coal mine, and took shelter in what had once been the owner's home. Even though most of the windows had been knocked out, the roof was still good enough that it only leaked in a couple of spots.

As I took shelter from the rain, I spied a stack of old books against a wall. To wait out the down pour, I thumbed through the books...then spotted a loose single page laying on the floor. On one side was this poem by Robert Frost. As I read it, it dawned on me that the rain had turned back to snow. I folded up the page and slipped it inside a shirt pocket, zipped up my jacket, slipped into the shoulder straps of my trap pack basket and walked home through the woods on a snowy winter afternoon and and early evening.

When I snapped the above photo along the Clark Fork River, about a mile from where I now live in Missoula, MT, a few days after this past Christmas, for some reason Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" came back to me. Before I finished my walk with our dogs Bob and Tully, I had almost remembered all the words. - Toby Bridges

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